Last Thursday afternoon, CPD officers were led on a whirlwind footchase through the neighborhood surrounding the Highway 82 Bypass on Bluecutt Road. The chase started when Reginald Cunningham was spotted at the Military Road Shell Station with a female in a white car. When he saw officers pulling into the parking lot, Cunningham took off running around the back of the Hampton Inn and cutting through Brown’s RV Park.
Using trees for cover, Cunningham made his way under the bypass and onto the properties in the 3300 block of Bluecutt Road. He hid in a pine thicket in an attempt to elude capture, but Sgt Ross Richardson came into the same stand of trees in his search. He attempted to Tase Cunningham, but could not get a clear shot through the thick brush. Cunningham noticed Richardson and took off running, jumping from a small overhang onto the roadway. He made a beeline across the road to a property that flanks the Bypass, with Officer Ric Higgins on his trail. [By this time, many of Columbus’ finest were on scene to help with the chase. – JD]
Cunningham ran down the driveway and disappeared through a treeline that separated the property from the Bypass’s embankment, diving through a barbed wire fence in the process. Officers were unable to find where he had gone through the brush and could find no way through the fence. Reginald Cunningham lay just feet away, hiding in the tall grass, knowing that the officers couldn’t see him. Unfortunately for Cunningham, the grass he was laying in was right down the hill from the Bypass, putting him in clear view of Officer Harstad, who had gone up onto the Bypass to try and cut off his escape.
Harstad had his Taser in hand as he walked quietly and quickly down the embankment. He was prepared to fire if Cunningham made another attempt to run. But, Cunningham never knew he was there. Harstad holstered his weapon and jumped on top of the prone escapee, only to find that he was naked from the waist down! [Apparently, Cunningham had lost his shorts when diving through the fence, having only enough time to grab them and hide before the chase team was upon him. -JD] The mighty Harstad wrestled with the exposed man until Lt. Wayne McElmore and Officer Paul Garrett arrived to help. Once the runner was in cuffs, the officers helped him back into his shorts and led him up the hill to a waiting patrol car. Though they were exhausted and sweating buckets, no one (except Cunningham) could stop laughing.
[It was remarked how good his physical condition and speed were, to which one person on scene said, “That’s because he runs from the cops all the time.” – JD]
Cunningham was initially recognized by Harstad because the previous weekend, on Saturday, June 4, Officers Harstad and Tommy Watkins had spoken with him regarding a suspicious person call on Bell Ave near 17th St. S. He was questioned and was about to be let go when a warrant check came back positive. When officers attempted to put handcuffs on him, Cunningham snatched his arm free and elbowed Harstad in the face before taking off into the darkness.
A search ensued, but due to the poor lighting and the high number of empty houses in the area, Cunningham made an easy escape.